Monday, March 03, 2008

Piles of Toys

Making Our Homes a Haven Monday

with Biblical Womanhood

Our home is on the smallish side for 6 people (1000 sq. ft). However, even with 6 of us living here, it always seems big enough. We try to stay as organized as possible, and we are always finding ways to scale back, simplify, and get rid of things we just don't really need or use. One of the areas that had been a constant source of aggravation for me was the kid's play area in our great room. It was always overflowing with toys, and the kids seemed to pull stuff out just to make a mess. They never really picked just one thing to play with because there were too many options and pieces were never together. Here is what the play area used to look like. If you look behind Isabelle, to the right, you'll see the play area. This was the best picture I could find of how it used to look. I always made sure I didn't take pictures of it! Do you notice all the piles of toys? The only "toys" the kids are allowed to keep in their bedroom are a laundry basket of picture books, Isabelle's stack of books on the top of her wardrobe, and a couple bookshelves of stuffed animals. So, all the real toys got stored in this area.

Every time I would look at the play area I would groan. It was always such a mess. But every time I would start trying to weed them out, I just couldn't do it. Unbeknownst to me, I had developed a strange emotional attachment to almost every one of their toys. I just couldn't bring myself to get rid of any of them.

Finally, two weeks ago, after daily growing frustration, I reached my breaking point. I was done with the near constant mess, even with our 2-times-a-day-without-fail toy pick up times. I didn't mind the mess (messes are an inevitable part of raising kids after all), but I was so tired of nothing being played with and everything being pulled out just for the sake of mess making. I realized I had to come up with a plan of attack that would allow me to take the emotion out of the process.

Here are the rules I set for myself:
  1. I would throw away all toys that were missing more than just 1 or 2 pieces, all broken toys, all electronic toys that no longer worked even with new batteries, and all little stuff that didn't have a home or purpose that I could figure out.

  2. I would donate all toys that were only missing 1 or 2 pieces, all toys that just didn't get played with and that I couldn't really see getting played with in the future, all electronic toys that never got new batteries because they were just too annoying, all little "Happy Meal" type toys, and all duplicates.

  3. I would keep all toys that otherwise would have fallen victim to rule 1 or 2 if the emotions/memories tied to them was strong enough, especially very special gifts from grandparents or aunts and uncles.

  4. I would divide up all the toys in the two large laundry baskets so that they could be rotated, with only one of the baskets in the play area at a time.

Having those rules to stick to really helped me. It took about 3 hours, start to finish, and it was definitely time well spent. We ended up with 1 bag of garbage, 2 bags to donate, and a large laundry tub of toys being kept in the master bedroom until we clear a spot for it in either the laundry room or the attic. The new play area stays neater, picks up faster, and gives the kids opportunities to actually find what they are looking for and enjoy playing with their toys. The rule system worked so well for me that I plan on using it to reduce clutter in the closets by weeding out clothes, and in other areas where clutter always seems to just collect.

Here are a few after pictures of the play area. The difference may not be very noticeable, but believe me, it is noticed and felt every day by all of us. In a few months I should be able to weed out some more when Gracie outgrows the walker and other "baby" toys. The cabinet next to the couch holds Isabelle's toys and crafts on the bottom, and the top section holds all of our homeschooling supplies and a few board games.

For even more great tips on making our homes a haven, please visit Crystal's blog.


Donna(mom24boyz) 11:28 PM  

Looks great, I know what you mean about a small home with a family of 6. Organization is key.

But at the same time, having a small home forces us to be closer togther. I imagine that if we lived in a much larger home, with the kids all having their own rooms, the bonding would not be the same :)

Kate 9:26 AM  

Donna, you are so right. I actually love living in a smaller homes for just the reasons you said. Thanks!

Mama T 12:36 AM  

I start twitching everytime I even think about going through the kids toys. That said, I too beat the toy monster! lol
Your toy area looks great though! I wish I could move the toys out of the rooms. One day! :-)

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